AUSTIN – As we approach All-Star Weekend, the Austin Spurs are inching closer to their quest of getting back into the playoff chase.
Though Thursday night’s fourth quarter collapse fit the narrative of this season’s constant struggles, the Spurs performance on Friday gave hope that this team has turned a corner and is poised for some sort of second half run.
AUSTIN SPURS: 119, LOS ANGELES D-FENDERS: 130
On Thursday, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter. That night, the Austin Spurs saw their high powered offense run out of gas in the fourth quarter, predicting six more weeks of despair.
Both teams failed to play defense for 36 minutes, as the D-Fenders held onto a 105-104 lead heading into the final quarter. Then Austin’s offense would lose its wheels, collapse into a heap of rubble and flame out with a whimper, as the Spurs scored 15 points on a miserable 24 percent shooting to end the game.
Six Spurs scored in double figures, led by Hollis Thompson’s 26 points and five rebounds. Patricio Garino and Charles Garcia both finished with 18 points. Jeff Ledbetter had 17 points, six rebounds and five assists off the bench.
AUSTIN SPURS: 108, RIO GRANDE VALLEY VIPERS: 103
Along the border, a packed State Farm Arena witnessed the dominating backcourt tandem of Bryn Forbes and Dejounte Murray, as both guards were assigned to the Development League earlier in the day.
After Thursday’s poor finish, Forbes and Murray provided the extra fuel needed to endure the back-to-back.
Forbes struggled from beyond the arc, but still managed to lead the Austin Spurs with 20 points and seven rebounds. Murray was Austin’s jack of all trades with 19 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in 39 minutes of action. Charles Garcia finished with 16 points and five rebounds.
Though last night’s game featured two players that spend a majority of their time in San Antonio, everything Austin did during the game is textbook to how they can re-emerge into the playoff picture.
A huge focus for Austin Spurs head coach Ken McDonald has been to limit the amount of 30-point quarters given up this season. Against the Vipers they allowed two (the second and third quarter), but both were exactly 30 points.
Another pillar of success has been sharing the ball. The Spurs tallied 23 assists on the night, with seven players scoring in double figures. Nearly every player that played scored, with the exception of Daniel Nwaelele, who went 0-for-3 in seven minutes.
Finally, limiting turnovers has been emphasized ad nauseam. Though the Spurs committed 17 turnovers as a team, Livio Jean-Charles was the biggest culprit in coughing up the rock, finishing with an uncharacteristic four turnovers.
More games like Friday night will be the only way Austin can hunt down one of the four playoff spots available. Sitting at 14-17 on the season, they trail the Santa Cruz Warriors by four games for the final spot in the Western Conference.
There are three games remaining before the All-Star Break. Coming up on the calendar is a date with the Texas Legends on Thursday, Feb. 9. Tipoff is at 11 a.m. from the HEB Center at Cedar Park, with the game being broadcasted on Facebook Live and Fox Sports Southwest.